Michigan Association of School Administrators

Service | Leadership | Collaboration | Excellence

Member Blogs

Blog Authors

David Britton, Godfrey-Lee
Scot Graden, Saline
Tony Habra, Paw Paw
Michele Lemire, Escanaba
Vickie Markavitch, Oakland
Steve Matthews, Novi
Mike Paskewicz, Northview
Dr. Jeanice Kerr Swift, Ann Arbor

MASA members: If you have a blog that you would like us to link please contact pmarrah@gomasa.org

Michigan continues to starve its public school system

Written by David Britton on May 25, 2016
Amber Arellano of EdTrust-Midwest is highly critical of Michigan's public schools and heralds Massachusetts as an example of what works. What she conveniently ignores, because it goes against the grain of her wealthy financial backers, is that Massachusetts actually funds their schools while Michigan has been starving public school kids since 2008.

State General Funding Per Student Still Lower Than 2008 in 25 States | Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

Future of Public Education: A possible scenario

Written by David Britton on May 23, 2016
So here's a conceivable scenario for the future if radical legislators and corporate hacks continue pushing charters on a public that chooses to remain ignorant of the problem:
1. Traditional public schools will disappear because a dual tax-supported system is not sustainable over time.
2. Corporations that run charters will open and close them at will, shutting them down entirely in areas where the profit margins are low.
3. As corporate-run charters become a majority of schools, corporations will demand more public dollars to compete in the marketplace and will use political money and power to force state legislature's hands.
4. Like runaway college and university costs, the demand for entrance by the "average student" will force costs at corporate charters and private schools to skyrocket.
5. Legislation will materialize to allow corporate charters to charge a variety of fees and possibly tuition to keep up with rising costs and greater demand; by now the traditional public school system will pretty much have disappeared due to bankruptcies and apathy.
6. The percentage of children uneducated in formal school settings will skyrocket due to their local schools having closed and inability of the corporate charter system to expand to meet 100% of the non-private-school demand.
7. I'll let you fill in the consequences to our society from this point on.

The knuckleball and innovation in schools

Written by Steve Matthews on May 17, 2016
RA Dickey is a pitcher for the Toronto Blue Jays. He throws the knuckleball.

While a member of the New York Mets RA Dickey won the CY Young Award - emblematic of the best pitcher in baseball. Knuckleball pitchers don't win the Cy Young Award. Dickey was the first to do so.

When Dickey accepted his Cy Young Award he said:

We live in a culture now that's got a very progressive mentality, which is fantastic as far as the association of the knuckleball goes. And that's a compliment to the vision and the imagination of the writers who voted. They didn't see the knuckleball as a trick pitch. They didn't see it as some kind of illegitimate weapon that you can use that isn't worthy. They saw it as a legitimate weapon. 

So what does RA Dickey winning the Cy Young Award have to do with innovation in education?

Perhaps, and this is just a hunch on my part, we are turning a corner. Perhaps, we are beginning to see that it is the outcome that is most important and not the means.

RA Dickey won the CY Young Award because he won a lot of games. It didn't matter that he threw the knuckleball. It didn't matter that he was not a typical fastball, curve ball kind of pitcher. He won because he won.

Schools exist to help students learn. We should use any means available to us to help students learn.

In the past we have viewed learning as "legitimate" only if it was teacher directed. Teachers were rated as effective if they were the primary "talkers" in the classroom. Teachers were rated as effective if they commanded the attention of the students in the room.

But that is not how students learn anymore.

Students are more independent. Students have a voice.

Student have developed their voice by gaining access to information through the Internet, by connecting with people from around the world through gaming platforms, by sharing ideas through Twitter and Snapchat.

We can no longer say that students should not have a voice in our classrooms. We cannot say that the only legitimate learning that occurs is in the classroom between the hours of 8:00 and 4:00.

Learning occurs throughout the day, throughout the night, throughout the year.

The definition of legitimate learning has to expand. Students have access to too much information.

The question is how do schools capitalize on this and expand learning opportunities inside of our schools?

The baseball writers accept that the knuckleball is now a "legitimate" pitch.

Can we as educators accept that student learning is different now than it has been in the past? And if we can accept that, how does it change how we do business?

Superintendent's Update-Budget 2016-17

Written by Michele Lemire on May 12, 2016
The Board of Education held a committee meeting on Tuesday, May 10th, during which I presented an outline of possible reductions to attain a “balanced budget” for the 2016-17 school year. The meeting was intended to be informational, but also designed to give the Board a chance to ask questions and to have discussions with each other. In addition, we received feedback from citizens during “Citizens and Delegations,” and further have received more feedback since the meeting-- that is a good thing! Upon hearing this information, our team has been able to do additional research and make adjustments to the original plan.  
On Monday, May 16th I am planning to present updated information for the Board to consider. There will be no action on the budget that evening, so that the Board has time to fully digest all of the information. We will schedule a special board meeting after the 16th so the Board can take action at a later date, once they have had additional thinking time.

Finally, I have been able to work with our administrative team to come up with a plan that will KEEP Freshman Sports. Further, this plan will additionally minimize the co-curricular reductions I originally presented. We will continue to make tweaks prior to bringing a final recommendation.

Tech in the Classroom – Purpose vs. Screen Time

Written by Scot Graden on May 12, 2016

At a recent meeting with several teachers, the discussion centered around community perceptions of the ‘Next Generation” classrooms.  A few of the teachers reported they have heard concerns from parents about “too much screen time” when they discuss the use of technology in classrooms.  As we explored this line of thinking, it became apparent that many parents and community members are not fully cognizant of how technology enhances the classroom experience rather than detract from it.

The time that the students are productively using devices vs. just having access to devices in the classrooms is a point that needs clarification.  Additionally, the way in which technology functions in the school setting often differs dramatically from the way in which students use technology in social situations or home environments. For example, I allow my children to watch Netflix and play FIFA for recreation.  This type of use is not an activity that occurs at school. The use of technology at school (during class time) is purposeful, and aligned with curricular goals.

The other underlying bias is that technology is distracting.  Frank Furedi, in “Focus Fracus” (Chronicle of Higher Education, Dec. 2015) notes the parallel between today’s perceived technology-induced distraction and the fear felt when Socrates warned that writing would weaken students’ memory capacity.  Similarly, panic ensued in the 1700’s over mass-market publications that led to “book madness” and “reading mania” that somehow the lust for reading fiction would cause readers to lose control of their lives.  Furedi concludes,  “In the end, what motivates students is not the availability of fancy gadgets, but the quality of the content included in the lessons. Instead of blaming the supposed Age of Distraction or turning the classroom into a digital playpen, we should think harder about how we can earn the attention of our students.”  Gaining the attention of the students begins with well-designed lessons. The delivery of that content is facilitated through strong pedagogy and the use of instructional technology.

In the Next Generation classrooms, students have access to endless information at the touch of a button. The classroom extends far beyond the school room walls in these 21st Century learning spaces. Making global connections, becoming more culturally aware, and discovering new ideas are explored through authentic and project-based lessons. Ultimately, the intent is to prepare students to live, work, and play in an increasingly more complex society.  Technology is the vehicle by which these experiences flourish.